US President Barack Obama asked China to abandon the so-called practice of “internet censorship” during his China trip last month, calling for the freedom of expression and non-censored internet.
However, internet censorship is far from an issue of black and white. Even in Obama’s own country, whether to censor the internet or not is under intense debate.
Two federal laws intended to censor offensive online content were passed at the turn of this millennium, while four states -- New York, New Mexico, Michigan and Virginia have passed Internet censorship legislation restricting/banning online distribution of material deemed "harmful to minors" since 1996.
Although these laws were later struck down by the Supreme Court on constitutional groups, but they are telling stories that the Americans are widely divided on this issue.
Actually, some other countries are also trying to filter harmful internet content, or using other ways to manage the internet, including South Korea, and Germany.
In Germany, German ISPs were once demanded to block access to some Internet content outside Germany containing material that is illegal under German laws of general application, particularly race hate propaganda and child pornography.
In July 2000, it was reported that the German government had ceased trying to bar access to content outside Germany but police would continue to aim to stop illegal "homegrown" material. In 2001 and 2002, German authorities issued takedown notices to a number of web hosts in the US.
In South Korea, the Korean Communications Commission, which regulates the industry, has created its own rules to oblige portals to suspend sites stepping outside the limits and require Web sites to disclose the real names of anyone posting comments.
The East Asian country is also considering a Cyber Defamation Law, which is aimed at the fact that "we lack the means to effectively deal with harmful Internet messages," as described by a Justice Ministry official.
"We have to guard against 'infodemics,' in which inaccurate, false information is disseminated, prompting social unrest that spreads like an epidemic," Lee Myung Bak, the South Korean president told the parliament in July, 2008..
Lee is right. While facilitating the flow of information, the internet is making it much, much easier for those ill-intentioned to wreak havoc, cause harm to others and bring about social unrest for their own selfish benefits.
The government has a responsibility to better manage the internet, keeping harmful content out of public view. Anyway, the Internet should also serve public good, instead of becoming of tool of illicit activities.